Wednesday, February 20, 2008

True War Stories

One of the good parts about being a veteran is the stories you get to hear that most civilians miss. I've been in a Yoga class at the Vets Center for the last six weeks or so; one of the other vets is a young woman, who I figured was an Iraq War Vet, given her age. Tonight she talked about her recent experience.

She'd been a truck driver in the Reserves or the Guard, but had been inactive for five years, had a couple of kids, and was proceeding with her life when she gets a phone call; they're calling her up for Iraq: report in thirty days. The 1-800 people tell her her choice is ten years in federal prison and a $300K fine, or Iraq, so she kisses the kidz and goes.

After a year of driving convoys (definitely one of the best ways to get KIA or seriously screwed up) she gets a conference call from Administrative HQ in Missouri, with her Colonel and First Sergeant listening in; she hasn't signed a military contract: she is, in reality, a civilian. She swears and carries on, but it's true. Her unit offers her $90K to sign up, on the spot, for another year's chance to get killed or maimed, which she declines. Her company commander orders her to get ready for the night's convoy. Sure, a**hole, and I'm gonna take a video of everything that happens, including your orders, OK? So she gets mandatory anger management classes four nights a week until they figure out a way to get her to Quatar where she waits for a couple of weeks, until the Air Force takes pity on this Army orphan and gets her a commercial flight stateside. They do ask her to unload her M-16, but then tell her to board the aircraft, automatic weapon and all. However, when she gets to Baltimore, they do make pay nearly $500. to get all her gear (with M-16? I missed that, but I'll follow up if anybody wants me to do so) home to Massachusetts, where she's now in a Vets support group (women) and trying to get her benefits for some time now, with the help of the Disabled American Veterans. (Note: it's nearly impossible to get any benefits without the help of a trained Service Officer,; with such aid it only takes a couple of years, in my case to get an upgrade, not to get benefits started. I'd been in that process since 1998).

We laugh about these things among ourselves because we know they're true, no matter how outlandish and ridiculous they seem. Indeed, the crazier the story, the more likely it is to be sober fact. I just thought it might help some of you civilians to know these things; OCICBW.


spincitysd said...

From the cooking channel to true war stories, Johny you really are something else.

I will add a note of caution; you do need to be careful with the stories told by veterans. Sailor stories are especially suspect--now let me tell you about the time our ship got chased by three typhoons ;)

johnieb said...

Veterans lie!!??

I never do. :-)

FranIAm said...


You could not make this up, could you?

Deep, deep sigh.

johnieb said...

Well, FranIAm, to be honest, as James points out in the first post, you can, but I don't think she was. And despite my flippant response, "true" can be tricky in war stories; I most fervently recommend Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story" in his novel *The Things They Carried* for a brilliant literary examination of this by an Infantry veteran. James is entirely right to point this out. And we have had our Wannabes, including a very fine Historian, Joseph Ellis, who lost a tenured Professorship at an elite private college (Mount Holyoke) when he was found out.

Nonetheless, I was an Interrogator: a professional experienced skeptic, which only says I know I can be wrong, but I don't believe I was; I have a finely honed BS detector. For one thing, as O'Brien points out, the story's very strangeness makes it plausible, and there are contextual details which contribute, like having a Truck Driver MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), which I'm sure is critical in Iraq.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Johnieb, I believe it. Or something like it happened to someone else, somewhere else. They didn't call that movie "Catch 22" for nothing.

I posted something just for you.

johnieb said...

Merci, madame